Bold Garden Ideas You Need To Try

We featured Patrick Anderson’s gorgeous Fallbrook garden earlier this year and loved how the colorful foliage worked with his bold wall, art and container choices. So we sat down with him to see if he could give us a few pointers for making bold choices in our own gardens.

To go with the garden, Patrick painted his house warm yellow. In the foreground, a coral tree’s blooms repeat the orange of aloe flowers

To go with the garden, Patrick painted his house warm yellow. In the foreground, a coral tree’s blooms repeat the orange of aloe flowers

SDH/GL: How did you conceive the palette for your own yard?

Patrick: If you’re talking about the plant palette, my choices were inspired by a lifelong love of cacti and succulents, and my desire to use them as landscape plants as opposed to just collectors’ specimens. When I started making the garden, the only places you could see that done were major botanic gardens; and I took my inspiration from the Huntington’s fantastic Desert Garden.

If you’re asking about the garden’s color palette, it all started with the plants. In addition to their sculptural form & texture, I was intrigued by the variety of colors in the plants themselves and realized that colors of plant and flower were also elements I could use to create contrast—or harmony, depending on my mood. The other color elements in the garden came about as logical complements to the plants around them.

SDH/GL: Do you have tips or best practices for those wanting to go bold in the garden? Are there things that work? Are there combinations that don’t?

Patrick: My best tip would be try it and see if you like it! There are no “wrong” colors. I would suggest a couple of things: 1. Don’t get carried away with too many different colors. It’s more effective if the same colors repeat themselves. 2. Or use different combinations in discrete parts of the garden. For example, I love the combination of turquoise and orange and that runs through a large part of the garden, but that would be too bold out at the entrance so I opted for sage green walls with oxblood pots as accents instead of the orange ones in the rest of the garden.

SDH/GL: What are some of the best ways to incorporate pops of color other than using plants?

Patrick: Well, the first and easiest answer is pottery—it’s not just for the patio. Incorporating large glazed pots into the landscape offers a nice manmade contrast to the natural forms of the plants, and if the pot is actually planted, it also gives an added layer to the composition of a bed or border. Paint a wall if you have the room—stucco if you want to be ambitious but wooden fencing panels are just fine (and a lot cheaper). If you have a space for a bench or garden chairs, go wild with color there. It’s only paint; you can change it if you don’t like it.

SDH/GL: What do you look for in accessories and artwork you add to the garden?

Patrick: This is a very personal choice—everyone’s taste is different. For me, the elements I look for are scale, materials and perhaps a bit of whimsy. My garden is large, and many of my plants are correspondingly massive so the art pieces have to hold their own. I also stay with somewhat basic materials—rusted iron or brushed aluminum, stone, and terra-cotta (bronze is mostly out of my price range). I largely tend to favor abstracts so that the focus is on the form itself and how it contrasts or complements the plants around it.


SDH/GL: How do you decide placement?

Patrick: This is where it is very clear that I am a plant collector, not a professional designer.  I frequently do that thing that drives the pros crazy—buy the plants that I love and then decide where to put them. I do, however, think very carefully about where to place them. Does the new plant offer something different from its immediate neighbors? Or conversely, does the plant echo the plants around it in some way? Either choice is valid, depending on the look I’m going for.

When it comes to artwork, it’s the same thing—I buy something because I love it not because I have a specific space to fill. And when it comes to placing a new piece, I just have to let it tell me where it needs to be. Sometimes that can take a while; I left a major iron piece lying on the ground for six months until I heard where it wanted to go.

SDH/GL: Have you made any design mistakes along the way?

Patrick: The only real mistake I’ve made—and more than once—is forgetting (or ignoring) the eventual size or spread of certain plants. It’s not fun having to re-route a path around a 12-foot-diameter agave that was planted 3 feet from the edge of the path! Speaking of paths, the most common mistake is not making them wide enough. I started off making the paths 3 feet wide, then shortly realized 4 feet was better. If I could start over, they would all be 5 feet, or even 6. Unless there’s a really good reason to keep a path narrow (a certain well-known, practically vertical garden comes to mind), it should be wide enough for two people to walk side by side.



Categories: Garden Guide, Gardening